Sunday, September 23, 2018

Star Trek convention in Las Vegas

So, wow, I am so far behind.  I went on a Big Trip for 5 weeks, and the prep plus the trip itself took all of my attention for a while.  I almost - but obviously not quite - got this post written before I left.  At least I got all the photos in place.  But then decided to prioritize sleep.

Now presenting - "what I did in early August" - a trip to Las Vegas to experience the Star Trek convention for the first time!

The goal was to compare/contrast with the amazing Star Trek cruise from earlier this year.  Have I been missing a similarly awesome experience for years at the convention?  Short answer = not really, it was fun, but not worth going out of my way for.  The cruise, on the other hand, I might be on board every year as long as it exists.

The cruise feels immersive and personal and like a family.  The convention felt like watching from the outside.  The cruise showcased stars' talents and personalities and gave us chances to interact with them and see them as real people.  The convention was mostly about watching them give interviews.  I could have paid more for a seat much closer to the stage, but I don't know that it would have changed my opinion much.

Plusses for the convention = many, many more actors, guest stars, and behind the scenes people giving talks (and subsequently chances to pay for autographs and photos with them).  I almost would go just to hear Kate Mulgrew and Walter Koenig again.  The Rat Pack isn't booked for Cruise III (yet??), so Vegas might be the only place to see them in the future.

A rundown with photo highlights:

I enjoyed watching Jordan Hoffman's events, starting with "Top 10 Space Animals" - he's a podcaster and a host on the cruise, good for moderating a debate like which animals should be on the list, and more importantly, in what order (let's just jump right in with the Star Trek geekiness):

After much back-and-forth, here are the final standings - Tribbles #1 (of course! there should be no question), Spot #2 (agreed), Porthos #3 (he is pretty cute), Ripper #4 (I look forward to watching Discovery this fall), Sehlat #5 (mostly just mentioned when talking about Vulcan but apparently appeared as an animated creature), Alfa 177 Canine (see below) #6, George and Gracie ("Admiral, there be whales here!") #7, and I don't know much about the last 3:

Here's a set of images featuring the dog from #6 in the list - one of my favorite parts of the Original Series, especially the idea of Spock holding an adorable dog with a horn:

View from the back of the main hall, where the cheap seats are located - eventually I checked out the seats along the sides which worked better unless there was a big autograph line in that aisle.  I'm not sure how it makes sense that there are so many empty chairs in each section (there are ~4 pricing tiers), it's like the actors are speaking out to groups of people with lots of space in between them.  I'm not so much a fan of this setup.  I think it's great that people can pay extra to reserve their own seat, but let everyone else fill in behind them maybe?

Zoomed-in view of the actors on stage - ah, it's Colm Meaney and Hana Hatae who played his daughter, fun interview:

Tribbles!  I should not be surprised that there is a company that specializes in these furry creatures.  E.g. Dalmation Tribble - "the fastest of all tribbles, hitting top speeds of two miles per day.  It has evolved its distinctive coloring to resemble a predator, so that other predators will avoid it.  However, this is not always a good defense, as some primate-like creatures on the Tribble homeworld think it's made of chocolate chip cookie dough.  They consider it a special treat.  Evolution is just weird."

Big pile o' Tribble:

JT!  Our cruise host, it was great to talk to him and personally deliver some requests for actors (and a scientist) I think would be great on the cruise.

Something to think about for March 2020!

Santa Gorn...?  One thing about the Gorn, you can never predict what he will do or where he will show up:

Back to the large hall, where Corbin Bernsen and John de Lancie got together to talk about all things "Q":

Jordan Hoffman did a live podcast taping with guests Aron Eisenberg and Garrett Wang, who basically took over and stole the show.  Those two are funny, major hams, and obviously good friends, and hopefully they'll join us on the cruise some year.

Joe Piscopo and Brent Spiner had a wonderful conversation, and I think it's neat that a guest star from one episode can have a lasting presence in the Star Trek universe:

Some of the more unexpected surprises were the guest star panels with actors (lesser known than Joe Piscopo) who were in one episode.  E.g. Jessica and Vanessa Bova who played a 4-year-old on The Next Generation many years ago - they told interesting stories and seemed surprised and delighted to be here (and finished each other's sentences):

Jason Isaacs!  What a stage presence.  He didn't need anyone interviewing him, he just came out and told stories.  Something about people in black cloaks (I had not realized until recently that he was in Harry Potter).  I'm quite excited that he will be on the cruise.  Also, looking forward to watching Discovery.

Fun with Ferengis :)  Rom stayed in character the whole time (even when his teeth fell out) and Nog (Aron Eisenberg) had a great time messing with him.  And because Rom (Max Grodenchik) is a songwriter, they sang/rapped Rom-DMC for us.  Always a good time.

The front entrance to the convention hall with focus on the new Discovery series:

There were various cosplayer gatherings with a bunch of folks in costume.  I happened upon the Wrath of Khan version, where there was a large group of people in formal uniform.  I should have brought mine and joined them!

Borg set photo opportunity:

Star Trek Discovery was highlighted, included a room of costumes from the first season:

And a not-quite-so-recent set also on display;

A tidbit without a photo - Michael Dorn talked about a drinking game while he was in college where they competed to come up with the name of the Star Trek episode as soon as it came on (apparently he and his friends got really good at this).

Also, Gates McFadden choreographed the ballroom scene in Labyrinth, very cool.

Rainn Wilson was a lot of fun - "This is JUST like Galaxy Quest!" and apparently some fans dressed up as Thermians just for him (wish I had run into them!):

Walter Koenig was great!  Witty and charming.  He wished Chekov could have done more on the show.

On a related note, I saw a T-shirt with the words "Nuclear Wessels" - one of my favorite scenes from The Voyage Home (and how we reference Alameda now).

The Tribble Truck (which is apparently a thing) in Las Vegas:

The Klingons came out speaking with a British accent, because, ...?  They sang "We're the Klingons, baby", our favorite Klingon Pub Krawl drinking song.  The funniest part was that they messed with everyone at the microphones asking them questions.  In character all the way (except for the accent).

Kate Mulgrew!  I love her so much.  I may have to watch some Orange is the New Black.  Her goal is to age with grace.  She gave great advice to everyone asking questions, telling one woman that you need to decide who you're going to be.  I wonder if she'd ever agree to captain a cruise ship.

George  :)  what fun and with excellent stories as usual.  He told of Captain Sulu's uniform being on display at the Japanese-American Museum, which drew some Trekkies, which apparently caused someone to ask "why are there people in alien costumes here?"

My first time seeing William Shatner on stage, what a character and I appreciate that he doesn't seem to take himself so seriously now.  He told a story of being on set with Terry Bradshaw, something about cod (maybe?  I'm trying to read my writing from many weeks ago) and some kind of a race where he ran down the great Terry Bradshaw.  It was pretty funny, that much I do remember.  Also that he has new spoken word albums, including country, Christmas, and possibly one within the Blues genre... sounds interesting?

Announcements were made all morning to "be here at 1 pm, you don't want to miss this" and it was Saturday (the most popular day of the convention) so the room was packed when the surprise guest walked out onto the stage ---

Patrick Stewart!!!

What a thrill!  He wasn't scheduled to be at this convention at all, but they brought him in to announce a new series starring Jean Luc Picard.  The place went wild.  It was dang exciting to be there for that.

So - another plus for the convention in the "convention vs. cruise" question, although I don't expect something this amazing happens every time.

Phew, let's go wander around a bit and soak up the excitement.

Photo opportunity with the Guardian of Forever:

An interesting makeup demonstration where Michael Westmore gave an interesting talk while John Paladin turned Casey Biggs into a Cardassian:

It was impressive just how fast this all happened:

And a bit of paint around the eyes...

Hello Damar!  That was pretty cool.

The start of the costume contest, where very creative people put in hours of time and tons of imagination to show off their amazing talents.  This lady looks like she walked off the set of Discovery to say hi to the judges:

Jordan Hoffman (in green paint) admiring this elaborate costume:

Quite the cast of characters:

Possibly a tardigrade, I can't recall for certain, but it's another amazing costume:

It was fun hanging around in the hallway watching the costume contest contestants walk out to mingle with the masses:

OK, not part of the costume contest, but still funny:

And by the way, yes, there were that many people dressed up in some fashion, at a minimum almost everyone had a Star Trek-related T-shirt on.  I could have just sat in the hallway and people watched for 5 days.

I went back and forth over the question of paying extra for the gala with the Nevada Pops Orchestra, finally deciding I really wanted to hear an orchestra play the Voyager theme.  I'm so glad I went, it was a definite highlight.  Yes, they did play the Voyager theme, plus several compilations from various episodes and movies across the years.  I really enjoyed music from The Inner Light (Next Generation) and The Voyage Home movie (the Hospital Chase was quite entertaining).

One sad note was that their tuba player, Dan Uhrich, had a heart attack right before the concert.  Paramedics worked on him but he passed away.  Heartbreaking.  The orchestra decided he would want the show to go on, so they dedicated The Inner Light theme to him.  A night we won't forget.

Sunday - last day of the convention, just a few more gems.

Rene Auberjonois, Robbie Duncan McNeill, and LeVar Burton came on stage to talk about directing Star Trek episodes.  Sounds like they had a bunch of fun doing it, and I always appreciate an actor's perspective when they get behind the camera.

Ah ha, here's an actual tardigrade seen through an electron microscope - much smaller than the one on Discovery.  Dr. Erin Macdonald gave two talks and she was highly entertaining.  Here she was comparing Star Trek ideas to real life concepts:

Horizontal gene transfer, an alternate/mirror universe, time crystals and 4D, warped space time, so many interesting ideas and some surprisingly accurate.

I can't for the life of me remember what Star Trek concept this relates to (a cloaking device??), but it was super interesting:

Erin had so much energy and was such fun to listen to that I appealed to JT and the cruise folks to bring her on board - and a couple weeks later they did!  I'm sure many other people made the same plea, but I'd like to think I had a small part in making that happen.  Looking forward to meeting her on the ship!

One of several Discovery panels where I tried not to listen to too many spoilers while still getting an idea what the actors are like.  It was neat having people who are so fresh and new to the franchise that it's all a strange and interesting experience - this huge automatic fanbase of enthusiastic geeks  :)  and it seemed they were all embracing the idea and running with it.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Deep Space Nine is celebrating a 25-year anniversary, funny that I'm just learning about it recently.  They screened the episode Far Beyond the Stars (most excellent) and then did a panel discussion:

I'm looking forward to cruising with Nana again in January - Hello Nana!

One last highlight, and the reason to stay all the way to the end of the weekend - The Rat Pack!  They were a highlight of the cruise this year too.  Fun Star Trek lyrics in familiar songs, repartee, jokes, good music, a bit of drinking, and a lot of entertainment:

Thank you Ethan, Jeffrey, Casey, Vaughn, and Max (and I can't remember the name of the piano player but he's great too)!

I found a video someone posted of my favorite song of theirs, from the cruise this year:

It was a fun five days!  I'm glad I went, and I'm even more stoked for the cruise in January  :)

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